It seems that everyone I have encountered recently, from middle school students to middle aged adults, are in the midst of existential crisis. Perhaps it is the instability of our economy that has everyone re-evaluating their lives, or maybe it is the dawning of the realization that we are facing a seismic cultural shift. Whenever I have mentored those in the middle of struggle I try to frame the discussion in the context of their divine calling.
I believe that God has a divine calling for each of us. I believe there is a life of significance that we are called to and that, no matter what your age, it is continually being revealed. I believe that our life is one continuous spiritual journey and not a single decision or destination. Even when we go astray, God is calling us back to re-make us and re-shape. I believe you have a divine calling. I believe that the divine calling is revealed through careful study of scripture and yourself, it is revealed in the context of Christian community, and that it is revealed over time.
Your divine calling is revealed through careful study of scripture and yourself. Spending time in scripture allows you to be open to the very voice of God. Whenever I teach young people about their divine calling I am careful to explain that whatever God calls you to it will be consistent with the text. That God will not call us to a life that is incompatible with Christian teaching. I know that reading the Bible seems so obvious, but that does not mean that it isn’t essential to revealing your divine calling. If you really want to discover your calling, make a habit to spend a few moments in dedicated and focuses scripture study each day.
In addition to studying the scripture, I also believe that to understand your calling you have to do a realistic self-study. Now, I’m not talking about narcissistic navel gazing, I’m talking about a real discover of what your strengths and weaknesses are. Maybe pick up a copy of Strength Finder, read the book and take the online assessment. I agree with Marcus Buckingham that our culture focuses far too much time on our weaknesses when we should spend more time building on our strengths. Your strengths are part of your God-given gift mix as well as part of your divine calling. Scripture is full of people who understood themselves (and quite a few who didn’t but that’s a different lesson), like Paul who in 2 Corinthians admitted that he had a “thorn in the flesh” but that God provided the strength to move beyond it and use his strengths to serve the kingdom.
Your divine calling is revealed in the context of Christian community. There is no such thing as a solo-Christian. Christians are formed by community, Christians are called by community. Often people will see in you gifts and strengths (not to mention weaknesses) that you will not be able to see. You divine calling will emerge as you are in fellowship and study with a body of believers. This should include three types of community. It should include corporate worship, being with the whole body of believers. It should include a small group of believers who will hold you accountable to be faithful to your spiritual journey, and it should include a group of believers that you serve with. By serving I mean using whatever part of your divine calling and gifts you have already discovered and use them to serve God. Whether it is feeding the hungry, greeting at the door of worship or making a joyful noise through music, use what you already to have to discover where God wants you to go next!
Your divine calling is revealed over time…it’s not instant. Our culture values instant gratification, often at the cost of quality. Your divine calling is not Easy Mac! It will probably not come in one shining moment of inspiration but slowly over time. The biblical writer admitted that often we “see through a glass darkly,” we cannot see nor can we conceive what God has next for us. Often that is because we would be unable to bear the divine calling that God has for us, there must be a time of preparation before there is a time of seizing. Once again, your divine calling is a spiritual journey, not a single destination. You will never have arrived; God always has more for you if you will continue to heed the calling. A look again at the scripture reveals that most of the leaders in the text spent years, often forty or more, before they realized even part of what God had for them. Seizing your divine calling always requires a season of maturation prior to it becoming integrated into who God has called you to be.
Your divine calling is more about significance than success. Your divine calling will not be measured by your 401K, your investment accounts, or your checkbook balance. There are a lot of people who measured their lives by these things and put all of their faith in earthly vessels, only to watch them disappear overnight. History teaches us that some of the most significant people, Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesus, had very little by earthly standards but led lives of incredible significance. It is reminiscent of Mark 8 where Jesus asks, “What is it to gain the whole world and lose your soul?” Your divine calling may never be your vocation, it may not be your job, but it can be your calling.
Lastly, I believe that one of the greatest sins is to deny your divine calling. Even if it is costly, even if it demands something of you, even if it calls you to a place where you are not comfortable, do not deny your calling. It is God’s best and highest for your life. It is where God wants to bless you more than you can ever ask or think, pressed down and running over. You have a divine call, the question is, will you answer?
Gracious God who calls us, give us the courage and the strength to answer. In the name of the One who answered a call, suffered a cross, and paid the price for our calling, Jesus, we pray. Amen.